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The Path from Staff Shortages to Self-Efficiency

June 2024

Originally published in the OBOA Journal Publication Issue #142

The Town of Erin has experienced a significant transformation over the past few years.

For over five years, RSM Building Consultants (RSM) helped the Town of Erin's building department. RSM is a firm specializing in building department support in Ontario

The firm took on a bigger role when Erin lost its entire building department in May 2022.

To streamline the building permitting process and provide RSM with remote access to permits, the Town implemented Cloudpermit.

RSM had experience with Cloudpermit in other municipalities. This led to an even faster software implementation.

"We wanted to move quickly, so Cloudpermit got us up and running within two weeks," said Karri-Anne Read, RSM Building Consultant’s Manager of Municipal Services. “Having pre-set templates from our work with other municipalities made the software implementation very smooth."

From January to July 2022, Erin accepted almost 200 permit applications. The Town introduced Cloudpermit on August 1, 2022. From August to the end of the year, applicants submitted another 169 permits. This brought Erin's total permits to 369 for 2022.

 “In 2023, the Town of Erin received and issued double the number of applications from 2022 with 743 applications," shared Read. "It was almost two full-time jobs to do Erin’s administrative work before this software. Cloudpermit made our operations so efficient that we only needed one part-time staff member to handle the workload.” 

Joe Forte, the Town of Erin's Chief Building Official for more than a year, agreed. 

"You need online software to issue permits this efficiently," he said. "It just can't be done by hand."  

Erin was then able to hire more staff to join the team.

As of the end of January 2024, the Town of Erin independently manages its building department without additional support from RSM.

A new subdivision is another significant contributor to Erin's considerable growth. The town expects significant growth over the next decade with more subdivisions on the horizon.

Erin’s team and RSM streamlined the transition to Cloudpermit by meeting with the builders from the subdivision. The building department showed them the cloning function as a time-saving feature to avoid repetition.

 “Builders were happy they could clone applications and avoid typing the same information every time,” Read explained. “They can simply update the address or model instead of filling out the entire application again for every permit." 

Forte echoed that Erin’s builders love using Cloudpermit because of how easy it is to use.

Now, the Town of Erin is adopting Cloudpermit’s solutions for planning and development, and by-law enforcement, as well. Forte credits this decision to the simplicity of the software.

“Right away, Cloudpermit impressed me with its user-friendly and straightforward interface for building departments. It also simplifies the process for first-time applicants and homeowners and guides them through each step of the process.”

Cloudpermit worked with local governments to design the software. This collaborative approach ensures that it is intuitive for staff to use.

"Cloudpermit is straightforward to navigate, especially when compared to other systems I've used in the past. I always stress its simplicity when I recommend it to other governments. Staff from other municipalities, who have used other software, also find this software the easiest to use. Our inspectors, with over 25 years of experience, all agree that Cloudpermit is the best software available right now.”

Read agreed and shared that governments love the software after the quick learning curve for their staff and applicants is over.

“I always tell municipalities that three weeks is the sweet spot for a smooth transition to the software,” she revealed. "At first, there's a wave of questions, but after a few weeks, it's almost like a light switch turns on, and everyone finds it easy to use.”

She also shared that it’s beneficial for departments to take advantage of Cloudpermit’s resources for an even smoother transition.

“I also suggest that departments add Cloudpermit's how-to videos to their website to help guide their residents through the application process."

Erin’s residents enjoy the convenience of applying for building permits online. Since the software is end-to-end, applicants and builders can access the same information as governments online.

“Times are evolving, and residents increasingly seek transparency in their projects,” said Forte. “This software provides local governments with the transparency and convenience desired by their communities. I can’t speak highly enough about Cloudpermit.”

Online community development software allows staff to talk with applicants and answer questions during the plan review process.

"Residents used to come in, send emails, or call to check the status of their project. Now, applicants, builders and contractors know what's happening right from the start."

Staff can send automatic permit and inspection status update notifications to keep applicants informed. They can manage and share valuable information with the software.

Read gave more insight into how the software encourages better accountability.

"Permits on Cloudpermit require proper site plan approval before issuance. This is especially important when multiple reviews are happening at the same time. This ensures all issued permits are complete and have the proper approval.”

Online data accessibility allows inspectors to start and finish inspections in the field.

They can use tablets or mobile phones while on-site to take notes, add photos, and pass or fail an inspection.

“Cloudpermit makes inspections easy and efficient,” said Forte. “Whether on-site, at home or in a vehicle, it’s convenient. The software enables streamlined communication with instant notifications for homeowners, applicants and everyone involved in the permit. This has significantly reduced the need for phone calls and emails seeking updates.”

Erin's staff use the software to access an online interactive map integrated with their Geographic Information System (GIS).

This ensures inspectors have the up-to-date information they need to optimize their time.

“The dispatching feature works great,” said Read. “You can use the map in Cloudpermit to plan your route. This prevents unnecessary driving back and forth across the broad area of Erin. Now, we can provide more accurate estimates when applicants ask about the time of their inspection.”

She continued that the software enhances transparency with online, trackable conversations.

“I really enjoy, especially with RSM, working remotely with our municipalities. We can access conversations between government staff and applicants with Cloudpermit.

Online, written chats ensure everyone remains accountable and prevent confusion."

As more communities turn to remote work, online software like Cloudpermit and reliable partners like RSM become increasingly valuable.

“RSM is incredible, and I believe they could benefit every municipality across Ontario in some way,” Forte said. "Governments can seek additional support from RSM during busy times or receive extra help with large development projects."

Read concluded: “The combination of Cloudpermit and RSM is fantastic.”